The end all Bay Area XLB debate. Where's the best?
Simple answers. Name of eatery, and ONE sentence saying why they are the best.
I'm a big fan of SDK. Best I've had in SF and California. That said, a friend who also likes SDK recently went to Koi Palace and ordered some XLB and he said they were excellent, better then SDK. I don't doubt him, I just wish KP was easier to get into to verify.
I was at Shanghai Dumpling King just 10 days ago after recalibration of my XLB tastebuds at a dozen of Shanghai's best xiaolongbao venues last October (see http://is.gd/6Zyc ) and can unequivocably say SDK's are the best in the area, and would rank high even against the roster I sampled in Shanghai. The five of us (all born Shanghainese except me) gladly went through five steamers at SDK as well as tackling some other small eats. The ci fan (fan tuan) was also pronounced excellent by those who ordered it (I'm not a fan).
I go back and forth between Shanghai Dumpling King in SF and Sunny Shanghai in San Bruno. They are different, and quality can sometimes vary a bit at both places, but both are really good.
I used to think Shanghai House had better XLB than Shanghai Dumpling King, but I now think the opposite, though Shanghai House's aren't bad either.
Shanghai Dumpling Shop has the worst of the four places mentioned.
I've had various renditions of XLB at Koi Palace during dim sum, and they were also very good, but still not as good as SDK.
The food overall (things other than XLB) I think is a bit better and more varied at Sunny Shanghai. Although I love the sugar egg puffs at SDK.
Side topic but for arguably the best Shen Jian Bao (SJB) which is doughy skin, pan fried, but great pork meat inside with a ton of delicious hot soup, look no further than Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnvale (who used to have XLB on the menu but their SJB is really why everyone goes there), easily beating a lot of mediocre XLB in the south bay.